Saturday, 11 February 2017

How to beat the Big Six >>> deprivatise energy

The PM is not very happy about Big Energy's big prices:
No 10 blasts Npower's 10% hike in prices as 'concerning' | Daily Mail Online

The papers are suggesting what we can do about it:
Npower price rise: Martin Lewis reveals how to avoid energy price hikes | Life | Life & Style | Express.co.uk

Many might want to go 'off-grid' - although in the States, Big Energy has successfully lobbied to make it illegal:
Futures Forum: Going off-grid with Ben Fogle
No more free sun: Arizona's biggest power utility wants to tax solar : TreeHugger

And in Spain, Big Energy has made sure there's a tax on your solar panels:
Spain’s sunshine toll: Row over proposed solar tax - BBC News
The Men Who’re Stealing The Sun | Wolf Street
Solar panel law in Spain could cost thousands of independent energy producers millions in fines - Olive Press News Spain

A counter idea might be to own and control energy production and distribution locally:
Futures Forum: "Community energy offers a long-lasting solution that protects against ‘big six’ price rises and pumps money back into local areas.”
Futures Forum: "In most other countries, renewable energy projects are owned by local communities: and so there's a huge groundswell of support for them."
Futures Forum: Local energy can be very profitable: "Seizing the opportunity of decentralised energy generation can provide new income streams for communities and councils."

It's happening across the UK:

Energy companies are cheaper and cleaner when run by the council

London mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to follow Nottingham and Bristol in setting up a council energy company – and it could shake up the whole market

Sadiq Khan’s pledge to establish a municipal energy company, Energy for Londoners, is one of his most striking mayoral election commitments. London will not be the first authority to set up such a not-for-profit company – Nottingham and Bristol got there first – but it will be the largest, and potentially the most ambitious.
The energy market is notoriously uncompetitive, dominated by the big six utility companies, whose pricing practices have led them to be investigated and criticised by the competition watchdog. Most consumers have little trust in these companies, but are reluctant to switch suppliers for a better deal.
Energy companies are cheaper and cleaner when run by the council | Public Leaders Network | The Guardian

This is the take from the NEF this week:

Is anyone still surprised by the blatant profiteering of the Big 6 energy companies?

Half of Npower's customers are facing a 10% hike in their bills this week. EDF already announced their rises, and it's only a matter of time before the other four follow suit.

As the most hated industry in the country they don't have much to lose in terms of their reputation. Unfortunately they don't have much to fear from regulators either.

Ofgem's thundering response on our behalf this week? Npower ought to 'justify the decision to its customers'. Right. Thanks.

But we don't have to settle for passive-aggressive media squabbles.

Across the UK, people are cutting their bills through unconventional but effective means.

In Nottingham, Bristol and Scotland, locals have successively taken control and set up publicly-owned energy companies that are fully accountable and offer cheap tariffs by default.

More than 1 in 10 households in our capital city are living in fuel poverty - an absurd and perverse failure on the part of our big energy companies.

But the good news? We can wrest back control of our essential services.

Stephen Devlin
Economist, New Economics Foundation

Ps. I was shocked by that London stat too. Share this you want to do something about it.

This is how we'll beat the Big 6 | New Economics Foundation

Which introduces us to the dreaded notion of 'deprivatising':
The possession of power: deprivatising energy | openDemocracy

We need publicly owned energy now

The Big Six energy companies supply 95% of all UK households with electricity and gas – yet they answer to their shareholders, not to us. Privatisation makes energy more expensive because profits are paid out and the cost of borrowing is higher than it would be in the public sector. Public ownership would save money that could be used to cut prices or invest in renewables. Examples from around the world - the US, Germany, Denmark, Spain, and some here in the UK - show energy can be run for people not profit. Local public providers, co-operatives and community groups can all get involved.
We Own It supporter Peter Schiazza sums up the situation well: "In the debate about the monopoly of the big 6 energy firms I have never heard that the answer is re-nationalisation. ... We have to put these options back on the table."

British Gas was floated on the stock market in 1986, accompanied by the famous ‘Tell Sid’ advertising campaign. In 1990, the UK’s regional electricity boards were privatised. The Big Six supply companies (British Gas, E.ON, EDF Energy, nPower, Scottish Energy and SSE) are involved in energy generation and have an effective monopoly over supply to customers. Transmission and distribution are also private, including National Grid.
Privatisation is failing, but a new report proposes a practical, affordable model for public ownership that would pay for itself in 10 years.

Public ownership around the world

There are a number of inspiring examples of how people across Europe and the US are rejecting privatisation and taking control of their energy supply, in the form of co-operatives, municipal energy companies, and community energy projects. As well as putting their customers first, not their shareholders, publicly owned energy companies are creating alternatives for a greener future, with less reliance on fossil fuels.


In the UK, Nottingham City Council has created a new not for profit energy provider, Robin Hood Energy. Bristol City Council has set up a municipal energy services company to generate renewable electricity from solar installations, which will be owned by the people of Bristol. London also has plans to supply 25% of the city’s energy demands from local sources by 2025 through a small municipal energy supplier. A recent Institute for Public Policy report has demonstrated how more cities across the UK could enter the energy market, delivering lower bills and greener energy. The Local Authority Energy Collaboration is bringing together a number of local authorities to advance the municipalisation of energy services, with the aim of addressing fuel poverty and achieving decarbonisation goals.
Our Power is a new non-profit energy supply company, the first of its kind in the UK, which aims to be selling electricity and heat to 200,000 people across Scotland by 2020. Over the next five years, this ground-breaking project could make up to £11 million of savings for some of Scotland's most disadvantaged communities, tackling fuel poverty and inequality by taking on the Big Six. In the future, Our Power hopes to develop renewable energy projects as part of its business for the benefit of local communities.
The residents of Gigha, a small island off the West coast of Scotland, set up Scotland’s first community wind farm in 2004. The profits are used to pay for building refurbishment on the island, and to repay a loan the islanders took out to purchase the island from its former private landlords. Community Energy Scotland, a charity that provides practical help for communities on green energy development, have helped set up over 1400 community energy projects since 2004, from solar and wind to micro-generation for social housing.


In Germany there is an increasing trend towards bringing energy distribution networks into public ownership through ‘Stadtwerke’ - municipal energy companies owned by the local, regional or city authority. Over 44 municipal companies have been set up, and over 100 energy concessions brought back into public ownership since 2007. These municipal, publicly owned energy companies are also taking the lead in implementing the transition to renewables, a move that the big four energy firms that in Germany are only making reluctantly. This trend has meant that 47% of Germany’s energy capacity is owned by citizens, either fully owned, part investment, or individuals. There are 888 grid operators in Germany, many of them locally owned.
A series of referenda and citizens’ initiatives to bring energy supply and generation networks into public ownership have also been launched in major German cities, including Berlin and Hamburg. The people of Hamburg successfully voted to buy back the city’s grid in September 2009, to better facilitate the city’s transition to green forms of energy. In Berlin, the transformative vision of the Energietisch campaign sought to put Berliners at the heart of their energy supply, with a democratically elected board comprised of local politicians, workers and consumers, and a strong focus on renewables and social goals. Although 83% of those that voted opted for a publicly owned energy system, the referendum narrowly missed the quorum of 25% of the electorate.
A number of German cities, including Frankfurt and Munich, decided not to privatise their electricity networks in the 1990s. These cities now have ambitious targets for renewables, with Munich aiming to satisfy the energy demands of the city’s 1 million people with green energy by 2025, a goal local councillor Dieter Reicher says can only be ‘successful if the long-term goal is sustainable economic success rather than short-term profit maximisation.’
There is also a thriving co-operative movement in Germany, with nearly 900 energy co-operatives established by the end of 2013. A newly founded co-operative, B├╝rger Energie Berlin, is in the process of trying to take over the city’s energy grid.
For further information on Germany’s community energy sector, see Caroline Julian’s thorough essay for Respublica..
We need publicly owned energy now | We Own It

See also:
Futures Forum: The issues of ownership and energy security @ Hinkley C >>> but 'business in the South West face the bitter disappointment of further delays'
Futures Forum: Can renewable energy create a Western Powerhouse? >>> >>> report launch: Exeter: Friday 16th October


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